This section explains how our rights and title to our territory have been systematically and wrongfully denied by Europeans over time. Then, it shows the current trends of infringement in Canada today.
COLONIAL INFRINGEMENT AND INTRUSION
During British colonization, many European structures and ways of life began to be imposed upon Indigenous people. In terms of Mi’gmaq rights and title to land, the most serious action was the Crown’s assertion that it, and not the original inhabitants, held sovereignty over the lands that the British were occupying and settling whenever and wherever they wanted to. Their false assertion is the main reason that the Gespe’gewa’gi claims process is being pursued ~ to reclaim sovereignty over our rightful territory.
Another example of colonial policies was the Crown’s leasing out of riverbeds in our territory to third parties. Yet another was when representatives of the Crown allowed British settlers to move onto, clear and plant lands that were previously held by Mi’gmaq for our traditional purposes such as gathering, harvesting and hunting.
In these early times, no agreements for taking our land were ever negotiated with the Mi’gmaq. We have never surrendered or ceded any of our land, then or now, with or without compensation for it.
History proves that Mi’gmaq living in the district of Gespe’gewa’gi and elsewhere in the Mi’gmaq Nation voluntarily entered into formal peace and friendship treaties with the Crown during the colonial period. These treaties are discussed in detail in other parts of our site.
These eighteenth-century treaties were primarily meant to:
- maintain peace between the original inhabitants and the British intruders
- firm up Mi’gmaq alliances against the French.
These treaties were never about surrendering title or rights to our land.
INFRINGMENT AFTER CONFEDERATION
The Mi’gmaq Nation’s ability to exercise self-determination within our territory has been restricted by government legislation, regulations, and policies which have supported and tolerated intrusion on Mi’gmaq lands. This has been at both the Federal and provincial government levels. The encroachment includes ceding our land and our resources to private interests and granting so-called “land titles” to Euro-Canadian settlers in our territory without having any right to do so.
After confederation, the new nation of Canada continued to intrude on territories belonging to Indigenous nations. Canadian history is full of examples of such activities. For example,
- The Reserve System, first established by the legislature of Lower Canada in 1853, was incorporated into the first version of the Indian Act.
- The enactment in 1876 of the Indian Act is considered a serious invasive action by Canada against Aboriginal rights and self-governance of First Nations.
Over the years, and up to now, Mi’gmaq lands and resources have been exploited. The Mi’gmaq Nation’s ability to exercise self-determination within its territory has been restricted by Canadian and provincial government legislation, regulations, and policies which have supported and tolerated encroachment on Mi’gmaq lands.
Today, both federal and provincial governments have allowed others to take advantage of our wind energy, oil, gas, forestry and other resources without proper accommodation or consultation with the Mi’gmaq Nation.
Mi’gmaq sovereignty over lands has never been surrendered, ceded or lost to the Crown, either voluntarily or by force.
Centuries ago, the Crown presumed that it had some right to stake claims to our land and then to transfer those claims among themselves. This was all without the Mi’gmaq people’s involvement or agreement.
This same Euro-centric notion of sovereignty over our land continues today to direct both government policies and actions of private industry. The Mi’gmaq Nation’s rights within our traditional lands have been significantly restricted by these policies that support and tolerate continued interference with our goals of self-determination.
Read the Indian Act in its current version.
Read more about infringement of Mi’gmaq rights and title in in our Statement of Claim, Nm’tginen, in your choice of Mi’gmaq, English, or French.